From the Editor’s Notebook: Learning to Do Without

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Learning to Do Without

In midsummer my home assembly received an informative letter concerning the plight of fellow Christians in Budapest, Hungary (population 1,900,000). Evidently the government wanted the property on which their old assembly building was located, leaving this local church of several hundred believers without a suitable facility in which to gather for their various meetings.

A new assembly building will cost them approximately $150,000. By our living standards the great majority of these dear saints are poverty-stricken. Yet, out of their meager material means they are giving what they can toward this project, many of them having sold personal possessions such as jewelry in order to have something to contribute.

As a local assembly in the United States we felt burdened to respond to this vital project, although our gift was precious little compared to the total need. At the present time of writing (August 1976) gifts totalling $5,887 have been received from various North American assemblies.

In thinking about this worthy project and its representative need, as well as the needs of so many others worldwide, it is to be wondered if we in plush luxury-laden America have learned anything at all about doing without in order to assist others for the Name and sake of our Lord Jesus Christ (and I address my own heart and conscience first). A case in point is the energy crisis which burst upon us three years ago. At the time, and for many months following, there was a great deal of talk about the possibility of rationing gasoline and that its cost would eventually rise to a dollar a gallon. As a nation we were asked to cut down on fuel consumption in every possible way, including the turning down of thermostats. Now, after three years, using my home State of Michigan as an example, people in general have cut down very little on fuel consumption, if at all. As for gasoline, more than ever is being consumed as multitudes, evangelical Christians included, pursue a life-style to which learning to do without is totally foreign. In a recent issue of U. S. News & World Report a University of Kansas professor was quoted as having said that if the people of the United States had met the crisis of Pearl Harbour in the same way they have met the energy crisis, we would now all be speaking Japanese.

I am reminded of a quaint little story which appeared in LeTourneau College’s Now publication a couple of years ago. A preacher was holding evangelistic services in a district where there had been one drought after another. As a result, the people in that vicinity were very poor; but many were experiencing the joy that comes from a vital relationship with the Lord. The preacher had been invited to stay with one family which was not blessed with a great deal of this world’s goods, and he shared a bed with a little fellow who was quite used to being denied some of the extras that many youngsters enjoy.

One night as they both retired, the little fellow looked up at the nicely dressed preacher and in his stuttering voice said: “Mis-mis-mister, if, if, if you want anything that you don’t see around here, ple-ple-please tell us about it; and we will show you how to get along without it!”

Undoubtedly that little boy could teach most of us a few things.

Technologists tell us that there is an energy crisis, that the day of cheap energy is a thing of the past, and that a day of reckoning will come if we blindly pursue our present reckless consumption of available resources. In other words, they are telling us that some day, like it or not, we are going to have to learn to do without. Meanwhile, as Christians midst material plenty, we may well ask ourselves if we have learned anything at all about doing without in order that other Christians, not so fortunate as we are, might have a little more to assist them in furthering the Gospel of Christ.

As we approach another Christmas season, coupled with the challenges and possibilities of another New Year, it is especially pertinent that we think about these things, including our priorities.

Other than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, there is no better example of one who learned to do without that others might be benefitted than that of the Apostle Paul, who exhorted the Galatians: “And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have, therefore, opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

Oldest Hebrew Manuscript

According to The Jerusalem Post, a facsimile edition of the Aleppo Codex — the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible — was unveiled to the press in Jerusalem last July 7th. It represents the fruit of twenty years of research by the staff of the Hebrew University Bible Project. The original manuscript dates back to 930 A.D., having been corrected and punctuated by Aaron ben Asher at that time.

In the seventh century A.D. rabbinic leaders in Babylonia (modern Iraq), then the world center of Jewry, felt the need to establish the official text of the Torah (the Law or Pentateuch). Their efforts led two centuries later to the massoretic text of Aaron ben Asher, which won general acceptance. By the end of the eleventh century A.D. the manuscript —a codex (book) rather than a scroll —had been carried off from Jerusalem to Cairo to Maimonides, the greatest rabbinic authority of medieval Jewry. Miamonides declared that only this codex might serve as a model for writing scrolls of the Law. The fact that every printed Hebrew Bible in the world today is identical is due to this decision by Miamonides.

From Egypt the Ben Asher codex was transferred to Aleppo, Syria, where the Jewish community held it in unique reverence for many centuries. In 1948, during the outbreaks against Syrian Jews that followed Israel’s War of Independence, this treasure was set on fire. Fortunately, about 600 of the 800 pages of the manuscript were saved. In 1956 they were smuggled out of Syria by devout Jews and delivered for safe keeping to the then President of Israel, Izhak Ben Zvi. This invaluable manuscript is now kept at the Yad Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem.

Most of the Pentateuch is among the lost portion of the codex. It now begins with Deuteronomy 28:17 and includes the books of Joshua, Judges and Samuel. However, 1 Kings is Missing, as well as parts of 2 Kings and Jeremiah. Most of the Minor Prophets, Chronicles and the Book of Psalms are preserved, although some of the later books are missing.

The facsimile of the Aleppo Codex is in the actual size of the original. The 500 red and blue, leather-bound, numbered copies will sell for about $400 or approximately 3,200 Israeli pounds. The total cost of the project was about $125,000 according to Professor Goshen-Gottstein, who directed the project.